I see both male and female clients, this page is for the guys out there that are considering getting help because it’s very common for many of us men to hate the idea of therapy. At worst it can seem to be an insult to how many of us were raised. I know some of you would rather man up and handle your stuff on your own. I often encounter guys that think the idea of seeing a therapist can be insulting and suggests they are weak. It is no more weak than going to the doctor for healing a broken arm. Unfortunately men’s issues are not something commonly addressed by many therapists.
Let me ask you a question, what’s better to do, ignore a problem and say it isn’t there, or to take the problem head on and face it? I promise you, running is not the answer and you cannot hide from things forever. It takes more courage to face your demons in all their ugliness than to keep on doing what’s already not working very well. It is far more rewarding too. A warrior’s greatest battle is within.
Before I got involved with therapy, it was the last thing I wanted to do. I thought I could just bury my emotions or control them, it was simply a matter of willpower. This works until it doesn’t. Unfortunately I had been put to the test by life and came up lacking and weak in my eyes. But I thought therapy was for weaklings and if could just get my head on straight things would get better. I came to learn the hard way that this is not how our brains work with trauma, depression, and anxiety. You can’t just power through these things. Trying to do so is the same as running on a broken leg – you’ll suffer needlessly and probably make it worse.
For some this will resonate deeply, for others maybe not as much, but I assure you it is all too true for many of us. How familiar does the following sound?
- We do not talk about our problems; it’s no one else’s business. (it may be wise to be careful who to tell what to, but bottling things up will backfire eventually, I promise)
- A real man hides his pains. (remind me again what a “real man” actually is? There’s a time to suppress emotions, but true strength is in acknowledging pain and working with it than ignoring it altogether)
- Quit whining and suck it up princess! (if the pain is bugging you and won’t go away, odds are there’s something very significant about it)
- What are you, gay? (the standard reply from those still stuck at middle school maturity level)
- Go drink a beer and suffer in silence like the rest of us. (yes, let’s drink the pain away since running from your stuff is a great plan. No wonder addiction is as common as it is)
- The only emotion you get to express is anger, maybe you can laugh once in a while. (science has proven that as you shut off access to one emotion, the others slowly go away with it)
- Life sucks, get a helmet! (yes, we do need our armor to get through life. It may sound tough to do it all on your own, but no one can do it all and be all things)
All these statements do not help. They make things worse. Yet, changing our minds is not so easy. If it were as simple as “get over it!” sounds, we would have taken care of it long ago. In the past the very idea of a man going to get mental health assistance was met with scorn and shame. We get these ideas from older generations. Times were different and no one likes change forced on them. Here’s the important difference: in these old times it was far more socially acceptable to have our primal outbursts. We were able to discharge our emotions. Unfortunately this could result in abuse and discrimination being condoned, and that needed to stop.
Thankfully some progress has been made on that matter. However, now things have gone to the extreme in the other direction. When we express our emotions they can make others uncomfortable. We must be civil or else we’re in trouble at work. We must walk on eggshells for fear of upsetting anyone. As a result our own intense emotions are turned back upon us. Eventually we pay a high price for this. Now we have to find a way to honor ourselves and our emotions so that they can be expressed in a way that serves us without being phony.
Our country faces an epidemic of depression. These illnesses often come from repressing our emotional side in addition to the many other unhealthy activities we engage in daily. Emotions are a form of energy we create in response to something. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be changed. This is a scientific law that can be applied to our very brains. With depression for example, it is often anger turned inward. This can come from an inability to express the true emotions we feel. That repressed energy is festering and sapping our lives so slowly we don’t notice until one day something drastic happens and we realize that we are no longer the person we once were.
The problem is emotions do not always just go away. Not only that, they grow and become a bigger problem which will come out eventually, probably at a bad time where we can no longer hold back. We get mad as hell and will no longer take it anymore and snap. If we’re lucky it’s not so bad someone gets hurt. If we are unlucky a lot of bad things can happen. There is a price to be paid eventually for ignoring our emotions. Modern science has shown how damaging stress can be on our bodies: we get sicker easier, we die of colon cancer, we lose our passions over time and give in to settling for a life we didn’t want, and we lose the ability to enjoy life. It’s as if we are dying very very slowly.
Here’s another fact: as our body encounters stress, we produce chemicals in our bodies to cope. One example is cortisol. It helps us numb ourselves to pain, however it also has been shown to impair our memories and gain weight, typically right around the gut. That’s part of the reason why we have to work so hard exercising to keep that in check, especially as we grow older.
So I ask you: is it worth all this? Is it worth continuing to avoid our problems for fear of being judged and risk so much to ourselves? If we truly want to be strong, last I checked doing the easy thing is the opposite of strength.
Our emotions can be intense and we all too often avoid them. This can be out of fear, or because some of them are just incredibly uncomfortable. The way out of our pain is to face it and come to terms with it. I don’t like to make promises but I can promise you this: doing this is so worth it!!! This means we at times might have to do things that seem like they are against the very fiber of our being. Taking a pill to deal with these things is just another way to run. Of course, sometimes medication is necessary to simply function in day to day life. But I know depression can be overcome by facing it. My office is an oasis where you can safely work with these emotions without judgment. You can go back to not feeling them once you leave if you really want to.
If we don’t have a way to vent our problems we have with our boss, girlfriend, living situation, job, you name it, they will grow to become bigger problems until a breaking point is reached. Women have their support networks for them and that’s a very good thing. But guys, it’s time we man up and realize that we need ours as well. For this to work you’ll need to courage and will to act, and the honesty to speak truthfully. That is the true test of a mature warrior male. Call today to overcome what holds you back and become the greater you that awaits.